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More than 60,000 Americans registered their opposition to the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger in a new petition submitted to the FCC on Tuesday by Common Cause, Free Press, Communications Workers of America, Demand Progress Education Fund, and other public interest groups.
Over the last several months, consumer groups, tech watchdogs, labor unions, racial-justice advocates, and others have spoken out against the deal. In addition, dozens of members of Congress and several candidates for president have registered their opposition to the deal.
If approved, the merger would leave the United States with only three nationwide wireless service providers. Despite claims made by T-Mobile and Sprint executives the deal would reduce competition, raise prices and result in the loss of as many as 30,000 jobs. It won't advance their stated goal of faster 5G deployment and improved rural broadband service. In addition, the deal would be harmful to low-income consumers and communities of color.
T-Mobile and Sprint customers are far more likely to be people of color than are AT&T's and Verizon's. Fifty-six percent of T-Mobile's subscribers in 2018 identified as people of color, as did 45 percent of Sprint's. Sprint and T-Mobile (and their prepaid brands Boost, Virgin and Metro) are the dominant providers of mobile service for low-income people. More than 30 percent of Metro and Boost subscribers report yearly incomes of $25,000 or less.
Groups gathering petition signatures include Common Cause, American Family Voices, Center for Media Justice, Communications Workers of America, Daily Kos, Demand Progress Education Fund, Fight for the Future, Free Press, The Nation and more.
"Our democracy depends on all Americans having access to robust and affordable wireless voice and broadband services in order to fully participate in 21st-century society," said Yosef Getachew, director of Media and Democracy Program at Common Cause. "Unfortunately, a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would only lead to fewer choices, higher prices, and widen the digital divide. Low-income Americans and other marginalized communities who disproportionately rely on T-Mobile and Sprint for more affordable services may also find themselves displaced from wireless access if this merger is approved. Thousands of Americans have spoken out to tell the FCC there are no benefits to the public interest in a marketplace where Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are allowed to call all of the shots. The FCC must listen to these concerns and block this merger."
"With this proposed merger T-Mobile and Sprint have turned their backs on the very customers that made these companies profitable: those in low-income communities and people of color," said Nilda Muhr, campaign manager for Free Press. "Don't believe a thing these company executives say about the benefits of this mega-merger. Combining two competitors means less competition, and less competition means higher prices for those who can least afford the costs of staying connected. Widening the digital divide is never in the public interest. That's why the FCC must listen to the tens of thousands of Americans speaking out against this deal and reject the T-Mobile/Sprint merger immediately."
"A merger between Sprint and T-Mobile will be good for no one but Sprint and T-Mobile shareholders and executives," said Robert Cruickshank, campaign director at Demand Progress Education Fund. "Three national companies with roughly the same market share have no incentive to compete head-to-head. The result will be less choice, worse wireless plans, and higher prices for customers - especially those with lower incomes."
"This merger means fewer jobs and lower wages," said Debbie Goldman, research and policy director for CWA. "CWA's analysis shows that 30,000 people will lose their jobs as the new T-Mobile closes redundant corporate-owned and authorized dealer stores. The labor market will be flooded with unemployed retail wireless workers seeking jobs, and average annual earnings for those workers still employed will decline by as much as $3,000. Job loss and reduced wages are not in the public interest - it's clear that the FCC should block this merger."
"T-Mobile doesn't have us covered," said Erin Shields, national field organizer for Internet Rights at the Center for Media Justice. "Though people of color make up a majority of their customers, this merger with Sprint pulls the rug out from under our communities. Reduced competition will likely mean higher costs for those on lower incomes and force many to choose between feeding their families and keeping them connected. The FCC must step in and block this merger to avoid further exacerbating the digital divide and leaving our communities even more disconnected than they already are."
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.(202) 833-1200
Abortion bans in 14 U.S. states since the 2022 Dobbs decision "have made abortion services largely inaccessible and denied women and girls their fundamental human rights to comprehensive healthcare including sexual and reproductive health."
High-level experts with the United Nations have issued a joint statement condemning the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that reversed decades of legal precedent protecting abortion rights for women.
"The regressive position taken by the US Supreme Court in June 2022, by essentially dismantling 50 years of precedent protecting the right to abortion in the country, puts millions of women and girls at serious risk," said the 13 experts, all appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, on Friday.
According to a statement issued by the UN's Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR):
Abortion bans in 14 States have made abortion services largely inaccessible and denied women and girls their fundamental human rights to comprehensive healthcare including sexual and reproductive health. The experts said the bans could lead to violations of women's rights to privacy, bodily integrity and autonomy, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, equality and non-discrimination, and freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and gender-based violence.
Such state-level bans on abortion and other restrictions to reproductive care, say the experts, are having far-reaching and negative impacts. In addition, they are a violation of international human rights law.
"Women and girls in disadvantaged situations are disproportionately affected by these bans," the experts said, referring to those in marginalized communities, living on low incomes, in abusive relationships, or in rural regions with little access to care or support services.
\u201c#UnitedStates:Since Jan abortion has been banned in 14 States & consequences of the Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion reverberate through the legal & policy system, putting millions of women & girls at risk: UN experts https://t.co/9BoUO3bPyo\u201d— UN Special Procedures (@UN Special Procedures) 1685706432
Last month, the U.S.-based National Abortion Federation (NAF) released a new report showing that "violence and disruption" against abortion providers and clinics rose sharply since the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization by the Court in the June of 2022 that overturned protections in Roe v. Wade.
NAF has been tracking such attacks since 1977, but Melissa Fowler, the group's chief program officer, said in May that the new statistics since last year prove "anti-abortion extremists have been emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the cascade of abortion bans" passed by Republican-controlled legislatures nationwide.
"As clinics closed in states with bans, extremists have simply shifted their focus to the states where abortion remains legal and protected, where our members have reported major increases in assaults, stalking, and burglaries," said Fowler.
In Friday's statement, the UN experts said they were "particularly alarmed by the increasing reports of threats to the lives of abortion service providers across the country" as well as by a new pattern of surveillance—including electronic tracking—being used against people seeking abortion care.
The joint statement urged both federal and state governments in the U.S. "to take action to reverse the regressive rhetoric seeping through the legislative system and enact positive measures to ensure access to safe and legal abortion."
The experts who issued the statement were: Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (chair), Ivana Radačić (vice-chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Meskerem Geset Techane and Melissa Upreti, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Ana Brian Nougrères, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy; Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Ashwini K.P., Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
"Similar to the countless battles the LGBTQ+ community has faced over the last several decades, our collective success relies upon everyone speaking out and taking a stand against bigotry," said the group who challenged the statute.
A federal judge on Friday evening ruled that Tennessee's anti-drag show law—the first of its kind in the nation signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee earlier this year after approval by the GOP-controlled state legislature—represented an unconstitutional attack on free speech.
The 70-page ruling issued by U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Parker found that the law was "unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad," making it a clear violation of the free protections in the First Amendment.
"We Won!" declared Friends of George's, the non-profit performance group in the state who had challenged the law.
\u201cWE WON! Judge Parker has declared Tennessee's anti-drag law unconstitutional! Friends of George's would like to thank Brice Timmons and Melissa Stewart at Donati Law and all who have stood by us during this fight! #standwithfriendsofgeorges #pride #dragisnotacrime\u201d— Friends of George's (@Friends of George's) 1685795100
While the word "drag" or phrase "drag show" did not appear in the statute, Judge Parker said the examples offered by the defenders of the law during the hearing of the case exhibited clearly who and what the law was targeting and that it therefore encouraged "discriminatory enforcement" by the state.
"There is no question that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment," states the ruling. "But there is a difference between material that is 'obscene' in the vernacular, and material that is 'obscene' under the law."
"Simply put," it continues, "no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit—but not obscene—speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech."
\u201cLast night, Tennessee\u2019s extreme drag show ban was struck down and ruled unconstitutional by a Trump-appointed federal judge. \n\nTried to tell my Republican colleagues when they introduced it on the House floor, but yet again they had to FIND OUT. \n\nHappy Pride, y\u2019all!! \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08\u201d— Rep. Justin Jones (@Rep. Justin Jones) 1685805066
In a statement on Saturday, Friends of George's said the ruling "represents a triumph over hate."
"Similar to the countless battles the LGBTQ+ community has faced over the last several decades, our collective success relies upon everyone speaking out and taking a stand against bigotry," said the group, based in Memphis.
Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression & education programs for PEN America, also celebrated the ruling, calling it a "necessary victory for free speech" in Tennessee.
The freshman Democratic congressman offered a concise political rebuke of his fellow Floridian during a rock concert Friday night.
Freshman Democratic Congressman Maxwell Frost of Florida was given an opportunity to speak to the crowd attending the Paramore concert in Washington, D.C. on Friday night and he offered just one word to Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis and the fascist policies he has pushed as the governor of the Sunshine State.
"Fuck Ron DeSantis! Fuck fascism!" said Frost when handed the microphone by lead vocalist Halyey Williams during the show at the Capitol One Center.
\u201cHoly shit. Maxwell Frost appeared at a Paramore concert last night & his first words on stage were \u201cfuck Ron DeSantis.\u201d The crowd went absolutely wild. Gen Z will make Ron DeSantis\u2019s life miserable & will never allow him to be president. Watch \ud83d\udc47 \nhttps://t.co/S7Drc0dgRq\u201d— Victor Shi (@Victor Shi) 1685806387
Frost, currently the youngest member of Congress at 26-years-old, has been an outspoken critic of DeSantis for his attacks on public education, a relentless targeting of the LGBTQI+ community, book banning, and his regressive economic policies.
"I said what I said," Maxwell tweeted later in the night. The congressman also responded to right-wing critics who denounced him for using the harsh word as he brushed off any concerns.
\u201clol they\u2019re so mad \ud83d\ude02\ud83d\ude02\u201d— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@Maxwell Alejandro Frost) 1685766962
In March, Frost said it was important to call DeSantis out for what he is. "He is abusing his power and using the state to target political opponents and political enemies," Frost said. "And there’s a word for that, and it's fascism, and we have to be honest about it."
Frost, a musician himself, performed and danced with the Tennessee-based band during Friday night's show to loud applause from the youthful audience.
\u201cVery grateful for this moment. I\u2019ve been practicing in the shower for YEARS\u201d— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@Maxwell Alejandro Frost) 1685766243
"Do you see this?" Williams asked the crowd after the lawmaker's remarks. "Do you see the future right here?"